May 24th, 2012
07:30 AM GMT
(CNN) – On Sunday, Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees passed away from cancer, adding to a series of untimely deaths of fading music icons over the last few months.
The Bee Gees enjoyed their heyday in the late 1960s and 1970s with disco hits such as “Saturday Night Fever,” “Staying Alive,” and “How Deep is Your Love.” While the group’s popularity declined over the following decades, Robin Gibb’s death will breathe new life into the group’s record sales in the United States, if history is any indication.
Soundscan, which provides data on U.S. record sales, won’t have data on Bee Gees sales until next week. But Gibb’s passing follows the death last week of another 1970s legend, ‘Queen of Disco’ Donna Summer.
The death of Davy Jones of the Monkees on February 29 also propelled the 1960s pop rock group back onto the Billboard 200 chart for the first time since 2003. According to Billboard, the group’s albums sold 29,000 copies by March 4 – a 1265% increase. Sales of individual Monkees tracks also shot up to 140,000 the week after his death, compared to 4,000 the previous week.
A similar resurgence occurred with the February death of pop superstar Whitney Houston, who peaked in the 1980s and 1990s. Digital sales and streaming of her singles and albums shot up astronomically by the next day, Billboard reports. Her albums sold 101,000 copies, eclipsing the 1,700 sold the week before. Individual Houston tracks were downloaded 887,000 times the week of her death – a nearly 60-fold increase.
Her signature hit, “I Will Always Love You,” was downloaded 195,000 times. It was also played 2,137 times on U.S. radio stations within two days of Houston’s death, according to the New York Times. Music streaming service, Spotify, also reported 2.4 million streams of Houston’s songs, an increase of 4000% in one day.
But in death, as in life, the ‘King of Pop’ Michael Jackson broke records. His fans downloaded 2.3 million of his individual tracks within a week of his 2009 death, eclipsing Soundscan's top sale record of 1 million tracks sold in one week.
When musical superstars die, fans commemorate their passing with CD buys and digital downloads. Perhaps that is the way these musical greats would best like to be remembered.
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